Bundle up and take a day off to go to the park! Missouri State Historic Sites and State Parks offer Missourians a variety of adventures. This trip offers pasturelands and several vintage towns along the way. Travelers can take the fast lane on divided highways or meander through the back roads. This destination is a covered bridge from days gone by and a look at General Pershing's boyhood home.

Built in 1868, today Locust Creek Covered Bridge is the longest of Missouri's four remaining covered bridges measuring about one-hundred fifty feet in length. The bridge was built out of white pine using the Howe-truss system designed in 1840.

The essential features of the design were its use of vertical iron rods to draw the diagonal wooden members tight against the top and bottom of the bridge. The bridge features arched entrances with ramps sloping away from both ends. The creek bed has rechanneled since the 1940s.

Covered bridges of yesteryear protected open vehicles as well as the structure of the bridges. The barn-shape structure made it acceptable for cattle to cross without becoming skittish. At one time, Missouri had about thirty covered bridges throughout the state. The four remaining Missouri covered bridges include the Burr-arch truss-design Union Covered Bridge built in 1871 at Paris. The Burfordville Covered Bridge that was built in 1858 is near Cape Girardeau, and the 1872 Sandy Creek Covered Bridge is in Imperial. Federal grants help Missouri preserve these covered bridges.

As a boy, Gen. John J. Pershing swam and fished in the creek near the Locust Creek Bridge. Gen. John J. Pershing Boyhood Home State Historic Site is located in Laclede in northern Missouri. Pershing and his family moved into the nine-room Gothic-style house when he was six years old and lived there several years. In 1878 he became a teacher at the Prairie Mound School at a pay of $30 a month. The school has been relocated to this site. He was admitted to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. Pershing had received the highest grades of the other eighteen area applicants. He graduated in 1886 holding the highest rank of Senior Captain.

John Joseph "Black Jack" Pershing was born in 1860. The nickname was given to him due to his serving with the African-American 10th Cavalry. Pershing became the most celebrated American leader of World War I. Pershing is the only person to be promoted in his own lifetime to the highest rank ever held in the United States Army: General of the Armies (one rank above five-star general). He completed his law degree and was admitted to the bar in 1895. He died at the age of eighty seven and was buried in Arlington National Cemetery in 1948.

Interestingly; "Frank Buckles was the last surviving American to serve in World War I. Mr. Buckles had a strong Missouri connection. He was born in Bethany not far from Gen. Pershing's boyhood home. After the war, he met Gen. Pershing and discovered that they had both grown up about forty miles from each other."

Exhibits, items of interest, and a free video presentation of the life of Gen. Pershing and World War I are available for visitors in the site's center next to the Pershing Boyhood Home. Home tours begin from the visitor's center. Visitors enter the two-story structure that has been restored to reflect the era when the family lived in the house. The museum is open for self-guided tours at no charge. The area is about 170 miles north of the Lake of the Ozarks.